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High Speed | Follo Line

Follo line

Much attention is focused on Scandinavia’s high speed rail ambitions right now as work is getting into full swing on the Follo Line – Norway’s largest transport infrastructure project.

The Norwegian National Rail Administration has chosen a consortium formed by Spain-based contractor Acciona and Italy’s Ghella to build a complex twin railway tunnel for the line – with the pair bringing their extensive tunnelling experience to Norway, having worked together in Australia building the award-winning Legacy Way tunnel in Brisbane.

The pair will design and build the 20km long twin-tunnel for NKr 8.7bn (£716M). It is the second, and largest, of four such contracts for the Follo Line, and will be the longest railway tunnel in Scandinavia when completed.

Most design work will be carried out in-house with Acciona in particular drawing on its network of global technical leaders. But the JV has also sourced key competencies in Norway through Swedish-based contractor Peab and the Norwegian branch of consultant Atkins.

The tunnel will link the cities of Oslo and Ski to form the core part of the InterCity development south from the Norwegian capital. Construction of the twin tunnel will, for the first time in Norway, involve the simultaneous deployment of four, 10m diameter tunnel boring machines (TBMs). Two machines will drill north towards Oslo and two will drill southward toward Ski.

The tunnel works will include the blasting of large assembly halls for the TBMs (later to be used as an underground rescue area), rescue tunnels, a 2.7km long escape tunnel and two, 420m long access tunnels, which will provide access points for workers and materials during the main construction phase. The joint venture will also install all railway systems barring the signalling.

The team has just successfully completed drill and blasting these tunnels, three months ahead of schedule.

Much of this early success is down to getting the team right.

“On the Follo line, once we suspected we had won, we started the talent development programme,” explains Acciona head of talent management Pablo Félix del Cueto.

“In our team we’ve got Norwegians, Swedes, Italians and Spaniards,” notes del Cueto, adding that working successfully internationally involves understanding local cultures, and the culture of others on your team. “Some are more ‘follow the leader’, some are more ‘I have an idea’,” he explains.

Acciona’s corporate university teaches business skills, technical skills and language skills – all crucial on a project like Follo. Across the country employees get an average of 19 hours education through the university every year. Most of that education – 46% – is language training.

Also invaluable on projects like Follo is its Globe Smart Profile – a system that maps an individual’s behavioural characteristics to typical local behaviours. “It allows you to see how your behaviours and culture align with those of the local team,” explains Cueto.

It’s a crucial step in being seen as a global company and not just a Spanish one.

Work continues with the excavation of the 2.7km long escape tunnel and the preparation of the underground TBM assembly space. It is expected that the TBMs will start work in the autumn.

Acciona’s high speed rail journey

Construction of high speed rail lines for Acciona began in Spain in 1986 with the building of the Madrid-Seville link. Since then Acciona has laid more than 1,216km of line, built 165km of tunnels, 48km of viaducts, and laid 1,401km of track.

Spain high speed

Spanish high speed

Acciona has built more than 1,216km of high speed line

Innovation has been its buzzword from the start. On its first high-speed link, the Villanueva de Cordoba-Adamuz section in Spain’s southern region of Andalusia, the firm was the first to push-launch a railway viaduct in Spain.

In a constant process of technological evolution, Acciona improved – and later patented – its own deck launching system, using this mechanism to construct, among others, the great viaducts of the Arcos de Jalón-Santa María de Huerta section in Aragon (northeastern Spain) and those over the region’s Huerva River for the Zaragoza bypass on the Madrid-Zaragoza-Barcelona-French Border line. These were the longest launches in Spain.

For tunnel construction on high speed lines, Acciona has used boring and drill and blast methods. The firm used TBMs to build the Guadarrama tunnels on the Madrid-Valladolid link, the Leon-Asturias (central and northern Spain) line tunnels and those on the Vigo-Das Maceiras Atlantic Axis link (northwestern Spain), as well as the Bologna tunnels on the Milan-Naples link in Italy.

The twin Guadarrama tunnels are each 28.6km long and 9.9m in diameter. There are 114 cross passages between the tunnels and they required the installation of 52.7km of Rheda 2000 ballastless track.

The twin Pajares tunnels in Asturias, northern Spain are 25km long and 10m in diameter and feature an innovative use of composite materials to act as a waterproofing layer, eliminating the need for a secondary lining.

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